New Americans with Disabilities Requirements

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The new Americans with Disabilities Act now requires a brand new surface texture on all new public sidewalk ramps called “Detectable Warnings,” or effectively, “Braille for your feet.” This gives blind and visually impaired persons a “tactile cue” to warn them of impending danger or a grade change. Required in all states, this new mandate opens up worlds of mobility for those previously held hostage in their homes for fear of safety issues most take for granted.

Due to new federal mandates (July 26, 2001/DOJ, and March 6, 2002, DOT/FHWA), detectable warnings, also referred to as “Truncated Domes,” are now required at all new public ramps for the benefit of blind and visually impaired persons. Detectable warnings at ramps and hazardous vehicular ways are in fact “Braille for your feet,” and by virtue aid the blind and visually impaired in safely maneuvering those areas that sighted persons daily take for granted.

You’ve probably already begun seeing these unusual, typically yellow, sometimes brick red, little bumps installed on the lower half of all new pedestrian ramps in your area and you’re wondering “what the heck are those things?!” They’re effectively “STOP” signs for blind people. An international standard first developed in Japan for public ramps and transit platform edges in the early 1960’s, they can be felt underfoot, and mean in every language “STOP! Be aware! You’re about to enter a dangerous vehicular way or a grade change!” In very short order these new surface textures will become as common as computers.

Vanguard ADA Systems of America and their unique product lines installed by licensed installers coast to coast came in to the national market in 2001 because products then available to meet the new federal standards were often difficult to install, expensive to maintain and in some cases even dangerous when installed improperly. In fact, because Vanguard products were invented solely to obviate the problems inherent in all other then available systems, architects, cities, municipalities and owners nationwide contacted the firm to find out when they’d be coming to their state next. The answer was; “Now!” according to Jon Julnes, President of Vanguard.

In early 2001, Vanguard installations could be found in just three states. By 2003, Vanguard products were available in seven. Today, Vanguard installations can be seen everywhere in Louisiana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Arizona, California, Montana, Washington, Florida, Vermont, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington D.C., with more states added every month. “Were getting inquiries from contractors and owners every day wanting to know how to get involved” says Julnes of the heady growth spurt they’ve experienced since late 2001.

Vanguard products have proven superior in every way to every other product in their class anywhere in the world. Unlike the products they compete with theirs are Non Skid, not just “slip resistant”. Mandated by the Federal Access Board, the Department of Justice, the Federal DOT/FHWA, and by virtue, every state, city, county and municipality in the nation, Vanguard products are quickly becoming the standard nationwide.

Thanks to far reaching civil rights legislation of the early 1990’s, those who previously had little to no forum, now have a voice as loud as Thor, the fabled Viking God of thunder. In fact, disability advocacy groups have gotten vocal enough to actively right the wrongs formerly built into all public access ways nationwide. In 2002, the Ninth Circuit Court in “Barden v. Sacramento” stated, among other things, that public sidewalks and ramps are a “public service” and therefore must meet all current ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, including the installation of detectable warnings for blind and visually impaired. This established a significant precedent with national benefits to blind and visually impaired. On January 22, 2004, Sacramento lost a very public appeal.

As quoted from the “Disability Rights Advocates” web site, “On January 22, 2004, the court granted final approval of the settlement in Barden v. Sacramento. This case set a nationwide precedent requiring cities and other public entities to make all public sidewalks accessible. As a result of the court’s ruling in this case, public entities must address barriers such as missing or unsafe curb cuts throughout the public sidewalk system, as well as barriers that block access along the length of the sidewalks.”

The settlement addressed all sidewalk barriers throughout Sacramento. Sacramento agreed to an injunction requiring the city to install 1,500 curb cuts each year until all sidewalks throughout the city become fully accessible to all citizens. The city previously had installed only 100 curb cuts per year. The city also agreed to install detectable warnings.

Cities nationwide quickly got the message. The 9th Circuit courts decision weighed heavily on every state, and within weeks, states, cities and municipalities across the country recognized their responsibility to enforce the ADA with immediacy. There simply was no valid legal argument left for leaving one of the fastest growing groups of individuals in the world out of the public design standards any longer. All cities now must step up to the plate and make their public areas accessible to all. The final impasse to true and full accessibility to all people, blind, visually/mobility impaired or simply infirm has just been removed.

While it’s true that the ADA has made significant inroads to making the world at large more accessible to all, regardless of any disability, no longer will visually impaired persons feel captive to a small one block area around their own homes, or in some cases, just their own homes. Thanks to these and other useful aids to all disabled persons nationwide, the world is becoming safer for people that previously felt far too excluded from the same world most of us enjoy every day without ever considering how truly lucky we are, and how much others struggle just to survive.

Jon Julnes


Vanguard ADA Systems of America

ADA, Vehicular, Pedestrian and Non Skid Surfacing

Phone: 360 668 5700

Fax: 360 668 3335

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